Before you open your mouth

Nick Morgan: Before You Open Your MouthHere’s a wonderful 10-page ‘manifesto’ by communication and speech coach Nick Morgan posted to the ChangeThis website. Before You Open Your Mouth: The Keys to Great Public Speaking is well-worth reading.

Morgan asks:

Why is most public speaking so awful? Beyond soulless venues and Death by Power Point, speakers make the same four mistakes over and over again, continuing the sorry state of the art.

Morgan offers four keys to great public speaking:

  • first, speeches are awful because speakers make it about them instead of the audience.
  • second, speeches are awful because speakers don’t take their audiences on a journey.
  • third, speeches are awful because speakers don’t rehearse.
  • fourth, speeches are awful because speakers think about their content but not their “second conversation” — their body language.

He offers succinct, hard-hitting advice for each element, such as this on the crucial importance of body language in terms of where a speaker stands in relation to the audience:

From our cave-people antecedents, we are conditioned to notice things and people that move toward us, not things that don’t appear to be a threat and go in circles at a great distance from us.

If a speaker isn’t moving toward the audience, then an audience can’t care about the speaker.
It’s as simple as that. It’s cave-person conditioning and we can’t help ourselves.

If, on the other hand, the speaker moves toward us, and even moves into our personal space—
between 4 feet and a foot and a half—then we suddenly wake up and pay attention. Again, we can’t
help it. It’s our unconscious survival training kicking into high gear.

Check out this thought-provoking article today.

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1 Comment so far
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Ian–nice piece and reminder as to why most speeches fall short. One more I’d add: passion and authenticity. Some speeches fail because the speaker doesn’t truly believe in their subject, not 100% anyhow. They’re not passionate. They may be going through the motions and even delivering technically, but a lack of passion will show through. I’d rather listen to someone who didn’t have perfect delivery skills but was passionate–and knowledgeable–about their subject.



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